Film Review: “The Last Five Years”

By Scott Harvey, Columnist

There seems to be some unspoken rule amongst film critics that playing favorites when it comes to actors or directors is strictly prohibited. This to me seems impossible. Complete objectivity is something that cannot be achieved in the field of criticism. Critics are people too. For example, I have no qualms about telling you that I love musicals and I love Anna Kendrick so there was pretty much no way that I was not going to like “The Last Five Years.”

Adapted from the Off-Broadway musical by Jason Robert Brown, “The Last Five Years” is kind of like “(500) Days of Summer” with singing. It tells the tale of the half-decade long romance between Cathy (Kendrick), a struggling actress, and Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), a young, but successful novelist. The movie starts at the end of the relationship and then works its way back through its highlights and lowlights. As more details about the relationship unravel, so do the characters and their personalities. To say this movie is an emotional roller coaster is an understatement.

The soundtrack reflects that wide range of emotions. There are sad songs (“Still Hurting”), happy songs (“Shiksa Goddess”), romantic songs (“The Next Ten Minutes”), angry songs (“Moving Too Fast”), and more. The songs are smart, well written, and appealing. However, as with a lot of musicals, there is one showstopping number that the others pale in comparison to. Here, it is the delightful “A Summer in Ohio,” sung by Kendrick, about the eccentric characters she comes into contact with at a community theater in Ohio, including a gay midget, a stripper, and the stripper’s pet snake, Wayne. It is a brilliant display of Kendrick’s talent.

I cannot really say anything bad about Jeremy Jordan’s performance because he is excellent, but, unfortunately, acting in the same movie as Anna Kendrick is like playing on the same team as LeBron James. Here, Kendrick brings to mind the starlets of the 40s and 50s with her effortless poise and charm. She is a terrific singer, a terrific dancer, and a terrific actor. Every scene she is in is made infinitely better because of her presence. I really cannot praise her highly enough.

As a movie, “The Last Five Years” will probably only hit home for people who love musicals. That said, the movie has an interesting narrative structure which distinguishes it from similar musicals. Credit Jordan and Kendrick for evolving their performances along with their characters and not making those characters one dimensional.

“The Last Five Years” is too slight to leave any sort of lasting impact, but it is still a completely worthwhile experience, thanks to the winning songs and the performances, especially Kendrick’s. If you love musicals, do not miss this one.

Grade: B+

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